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Women doing the business

BE YOUR OWN BOSS: Women should look to work for themselves

WITH THE cutbacks ensuring that there will never be a job for life again, self employment is no longer that something nice to do, but a real necessity for most women looking to survive, let alone thrive during the downturn. 

With the lack of promotion opportunities, redundancy or a restructure on the horizon; don’t wait until you are clearing your desk or walking through the door before you start thinking about self employment as your next career option.  

Research cites a lack of confidence as the main reason why women don’t start their own businesses. However, throughout history there have been countless examples of black women who have leveraged their talent and experience against the odds, to build profitable and viable businesses that bought them (and their family) great wealth.

In the 1800s, Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole ran profitable boarding homes in the Crimea for disabled European soldiers and sailors.  Across the pond, Madam C.J. Walker was making her fortune by developing and marketing a hugely successful line of beauty and hair products for black women.

Today there are countless examples of black women starting and running successful businesses across the globe; so what’s stopping you from taking that leap of faith?

If you don’t believe me, let’s look at the facts.

Women of colour are over two and a half times more entrepreneurial than white women (ibid GEM, London Business School, 2006).  Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) for white females is 3.6% and is two and a half times higher amongst women from mixed backgrounds (10.2%), for Bangladeshi women it is (10.9%), other Asians (10.3%) and black Caribbeans (10.5%).

The most entrepreneurial female grouping is that of 'other Black' at (29.9%) of all women. (ibid GEM, London Business School, 2004).
In celebration of International Women’s Month, we are going to share with you 7 vital steps for getting your business off the ground.

1.  Have a clear vision about what your business is going to look like when you start up, and also in 3, 5 and 10 years time.  Understand what your goals are and capture this information in your business plan.  Identify what activities will help you to accomplish your goals e.g. do you need more money, resources, skills, education or experience to create your ideal business?  Then make it happen!

2.  You may have the idea and the technical skills to deliver your services or make your products, but you must speak to a professional business advisor about how you should structure your business.   Too many people seek the advice of friends and family however, this is not good business practice and often they will tell you what you want to hear.  It’s simply a matter of speaking to as many professionals, specialists and experts as possible to help to shape the business infrastructure and model.

3.  Raising finance is always going to be difficult and you must come up with innovative ways to not only get your business off the ground but also to grow it to the next level.  Develop a relationship with your bank manager from the beginning, so that you understand the financial options available to you outside of the traditional loans and overdraft facilities.  Start- ups tend to under finance their business in the early days so it’s important to work with financial experts to ensure that you are adequately planning for your financial future.

4.  Be careful of the people who you have around you and are part of your team.  Work with people who have the skills and expertise to deliver to the standard that you demand.  Failure to do so means that you will damage your brand value and your bottom line during a time when resources are scarce during the early years.  They may have all the best intentions to support you, but its best to work with people that have a track record in delivering and in some cases may be happy to barter services until you can afford to pay.

5.  Stick to the plan but make sure you are continuously evaluating your activities to ensure that they are meeting (and exceeding) your business goals, increasing its value and minimising risk.  By continuously monitoring your goals and amending activities in good time, you will be able to bounce back from any mistakes quicker than if you did not have flexible processes in place.

6.  Networking is vital for business growth.  It’s all about connecting and building relationships with your customers, suppliers and stakeholders in order to maximise leads and take your business to the next level.  It’s not just about who offers the best refreshments. You need to be strategic and looking to build long-term relationships for mutual gain not munching on the vol au vonts!

7.  Get yourself a mentor to ensure that you are held accountable, pushing the boundaries and remaining competitive in the market place.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and ask people to mentor you.  You can have more than one mentor, but make sure they add value to you and your business.


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